This week marks the first of my WeSeWriMo (Web Serial Writing Month) posts. If I'm to meet my goal, August's #FridayFlashes will all have a UCF flavour with, all being well, something a little unusual, at least for me, coming up towards the end of the month.
The Tome of Levelling (Part 1) is the sixteenth installment in my on-going flash fiction serial, The UCF Stories. If you'd like to read the story from the beginning, please go here.
The Pixies and Botchett have just surprised Rev Beresford in the act of showing Aveena the Book when a squad of Urban Combat Fairies, lead by Twinkle, burst in through the front window of the Rev's rooms above Goddess Rising.
Simeon took one look at the fairies, made a small mewling noise and fainted. The thud of his body hitting the floor made everyone jump, and Twinkle took this as her cue to lunge for the Book.
'Oh no you don't.' Aveena jerked the book out of Twinkle's reach. She wasn't sure what the book contained, but from its aura she could tell it was powerful, hugely powerful, and it didn't seem like a good idea to be handing it over to fairies, to anyone, until she had a better idea of the damage that might be done.
'Give me the Book,' demanded Twinkle.
'Not so fast, bonny lass,' growled Botchett, producing two unfeasibly large ducks-foot pistols from inside his tunic. Each one had seven brass barrels that fanned out from a single trigger, glinting in the firelight as Botchett levelled them in the fairies' direction. Swazzle and Pogmorton exchanged looks, their eyebrows climbing into their hairlines.
'Err, Botchett...' Swazzle began.
'Not now, bonny lad. I need to keep an eye on these tricky buggers.' Botchett continued, his voice a little louder, and harsher, for the fairies' benefit, 'What we have here is a bit of a stand-off, like. The first one of you little bastards moves, and I'll do for the lot of you.' He smiled dangerously at Twinkle.
'If you do not hand over the Book,' Twinkle locked eyes with Aveena, 'I will order my squad to open fire.'
The stand-off lasted for a few moments, until Rev Beresford, grimacing in pain, leant suddenly over the arm of his chair and attempted to grab Twinkle, then everything seemed to happen at once.
Twinkle neatly sidestepped the Reverend's lunge, yelled, 'Fire!' and dived for the book again. The screaming reports of her squad's Banshee rifles were all but drowned out by the two terrific booms of Botchett's pistols, which filled the room with clouds of black powder smoke and made everyone wince. Banshee rifle rounds slapped into the wall behind the Pixies.
In the brief mayhem of the exchange of fire, Twinkle managed to get a hand on the book and began a tug of war with Aveena that only ended when Aveena shrugged her shoulder and Twinkle watched with growing horror as a dark liquid ran rapidly from under Aveena's jacket cuff into her hand and dripped towards the floor. Instead of forming a puddle on the floor at Aveena's feet, the liquid quickly solidified into a wickedly sharp short sword, which Aveena brought upwards with a neat flick of her wrist, severing Twinkle's hand at the wrist.
'Warned you, so,' said Aveena flatly.
With the sudden release in pressure as Twinkle fell back gasping in pain, Aveena's arm recoiled and the book slipped from her grasp.
As the book sailed through the air over Aveena's shoulder, Pogmorton whipped out his wand, and with a few deft movements, folded the book, with Twinkle's hand still attached, neatly into a pocket of space before collapsing backwards himself. The only sign the Book had ever been there was a soft imperfection in the air, like a fault in a medieval window glass. Rev Beresford would marvel later at how he could see the imperfection was there from any angle, and the rest of his room that lay beyond it, but that he could not touch it, the faint fault line seeming to elude his grasping fingers every time he tried.
As the smoke cleared, the carnage wrought by Botchett's “deck-clearers” became all too apparent. Twinkle's entire squad lay broken and bleeding, the walls behind them peppered with shot. Twinkle edged slowly backwards over their bodies toward the window.
Aveena became aware her left arm was bleeding. Shrugging off her jacket to reveal a white vest top beneath, Aveena noticed a thin, angry red line where a Banshee rifle bullet had grazed the side of her left bicep. A small rivulet of blood curled slowly down her upper arm. While Aveena concentrated on her wound, the rest of the assembled company merely stared dumbstruck at the two full arm sleeves of tattoos Aveena's jacket had concealed, each running completely from shoulder to wrist, and intricately interwoven with mythical beasts, Celtic weaponry and the four elements. There was a sword shaped space in the design on Aveena's left forearm.
With everyone's eyes on Aveena's tattoos, Twinkle slipped quietly out of the window and fluttered unsteadily away.
'By the gods!' marvelled Swazzle, 'Those are impressive. Hey, Pogmorton, have you seen...'
Swazzle turned to find, lying at his feet, the motionless body of his best friend, blood fountaining from a gaping wound in the side of Pogmorton's neck.
'Noooooooooo!' wailed Swazzle, dropping to his knees and cradling Pogmorton in his arms.
Botchett checked for a pulse, then laid a gentle hand on Swazzle's shoulder. 'I think he's gone, bonny lad.' He paused. 'I'm sorry, like.'
Swazzle threw his head back and let out a blood-curdling, keening howl.